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Getting to know your neighbor: Time’s a-ticking at Bly’s Clock Shop

Norm Bly
SPRINGVILLE — “My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf, so it stood 90 years on the floor. It was taller, by half, than the old man himself, though it weighed not a pennyweight more.”

“Did you know that grandfathers clocks got their name from a song?” Norm Bly asked, as he pointed to one of the hundreds of ticking clocks placed around his Springville business, Bly’s Clock Shop.

In 1978, Bly, then a guidance counselor in the Buffalo school system, said he was considering moving up in the teaching world – to principal – even though he had graduated from the University at Buffalo with a degree in engineering, but his inclination toward engineering stopped him. “I thought to myself, ‘I’ll have a little adventure!’ and then I moved to Kentucky,” he said.

After leaving his 12-year education career behind, Bly, along with his wife Linda, ran a you-pick strawberry farm in Kentucky, which he said kept him busy, during the summer. “But during the winter, I got bored,” he said. “So I took a class in clock repair.”

For a full year, Bly commuted to the Clockmaker’s Institute in Pennsylvania, exercising what he called his “mechanically inclined” mind. When he was two months into the course, he began doing clock cleaning and simple repairs. That one-year class turned into a full-blown career, one Bly said he still loves, after 33 years.

The family moved back to Springville in 1986. Bly now works on timepieces out of his North Street home. His wife and his brother Roy help him work on the approximately 60 clocks he is currently repairing for customers. “Fixing things is really nice,” Bly said. “When the rest of the world is chaotic, it’s nice to come in here and sit. It’s like being with a friend.”

EVEN A BROKEN CLOCK IS RIGHT TWICE A DAY — Horologist Norm Bly of Springville is pictured fixing a clock a customer brought into his shop, located on North Street. Photo by Jessie Owen.
Because Bly is one of the few horologists (individuals who study time or timepieces) in the area, he said he gets a lot of business, both from customers’ needing a clock fixed and from those shopping for new timepieces. “I have close to 10,000 clock customers,” he said.

He said that the reason there are not more shops like his is because his profession requires not only mechanical inclination, but what he called the “two P’s:” patience and persistence. “It takes close to five years to get pretty good at this,” he said. “It really does take years of experience.”

Bly estimated that he has worked on close to 30,000 clocks during his career. “I enjoy it,” he said. “I really do.”

TICK, TOCK — A large variety of clocks is available for sale, at Bly’s Clock Shop. Shown is a selection of the timepieces on display in the store.
He has approximately 600 clocks for sale in his shop in Springville. Timepieces range from those that date from as early as the late 1700s and those as modern as brand-new, animated, rhythm clocks. “Clocks find me,” he said. “Every year, I’d say people offer between 75 and 100 clocks to me, to buy.”

Bly said that the long-cased “grandfather clocks” are some of his favorites. “They were made very well,” he said, gesturing to a wall of grandfather clocks originally made in England. Another type of clock he said he enjoys is the atmos clock, which runs on temperature changes. As long as the temperature around it changes by at least two degrees every 48 hours, the clock is supplied with energy.

“They have their own personalities,” he said, gesturing to the clocks lining the walls. “They all have a ‘tick-tock,’ but they are unique. Each chime or strike has its own distinction. They are so enjoyable and fun to work on.”

Bly estimated that he has worked on at least one of every clock ever made. “Every clock is repairable,” he said. “You get a feeling of accomplishment. You’ve done something.”

Most of the repairs Bly does involve cleaning and oiling clocks. But he said that, sometimes, clock wheels, which make as many as 2,000 revolutions per day, weaken and shift out of alignment. “Then, I have to take it apart,” he said. “That’s a major overhaul. But, once that’s done, the clock should last for years.”

Saying that his returning customers become like family to him, Bly welcomed new patrons to check out his inventory or bring their clocks to him.

“People will come back and say they’ve missed their clock,” he said. “One night, when I just moved in here, and I didn’t have my clocks up yet, I couldn’t sleep. So, I can identify with that. I set my clocks at different times so they always serenade me.”

To browse the wall, cuckoo, musical rhythm, mantel and grandfather clocks at Bly’s Clock Shop, or to have a timepiece repaired, call 592-3760 or stop in. The shop, which is located at 453 North St., is open Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.


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